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Conference on World Affairs: everything under the sun and then some
by Kenna Bruner, Office of University Communications

For 61 years, the Conference on World Affairs (CWA) has educated, entertained and engaged topics as diverse as the people who travel from far-flung locales around the world to participate.

Perspective 360, the theme of this year’s conference, held April 6-10, reflects the conference’s tradition of bringing to CU-Boulder a global outlook on many fields of human endeavor.

Founded in 1948 as a forum on international affairs, today’s conference features wide-ranging topics including art, diplomacy, technology, spirituality, pop culture, politics, human rights, science and just about everything in between.

Each year more than 100 participants representing a broad array of expertise gather on the campus for 200 nonacademic, cross-disciplinary panels, plenary sessions and performances that are free and open to the public. Participants are chosen for their expertise, breadth of knowledge and ability to engross the audience as they discuss and debate a variety of issues in an impromptu style.

Along with topics that focus on current events and issues that have effects on national and international scales, specific interest subjects offer insights that often touch on meaningful and timely experiences of individual participants.

Linda Besen and Vicki Czech, editors with University Communications, have attended CWA sessions for years and both enjoy the vibrant global village atmosphere that imbues the campus during CWA week.

This year Czech attended a session on “Writing for the Short Attention Span,” a panel discussion of how writers can hook readers and keep them to the end of an article in Web or print publications. “Panelists debated whether readers actually have a short attention span or if it’s too little time and too much information,” said Czech.

Besen, whose son recently had heart surgery, was attracted to “Coping with Illness: Hope as a Strategy” in which panelists discussed their perspectives on how hope factors into illness. “My son’s surgery was a difficult time for my family,” said Besen, “so the topic of this panel was especially relevant to me.”

Illustrious participants at this year’s event included women’s health pioneer Susan Love, former Sen. Chuck Hagel, James Hansen, who is director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and United Nations Foundation President Tim Wirth. Sessions ranged from “Brain Quacks” and “Civil Liberties: What, Me Worry?” to “How Economists Missed It” and “Sports to the Extreme: Dying to Play.”

A consistently popular event of the conference is the Cinema Interruptus, hosted for many years by Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert. This year Chop Shop was on the chopping block to be discussed and dissected on various aspects, from plot points and directing techniques to camera angles and frame composition.

“The Conference on World Affairs gives you a glimpse into other people’s lives and what they’re concerned with and thinking about,” said Czech. “I find that so fascinating.”

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